Computational media and my first sketch with P5.js

Computational media simply means, using computational power to manipulate tangible or intangible media.

On the first day of ICM class last week, we discussed the possibilities of computational media and some moral conundrums in technological progress. This was illustrated using a thought experiment, in which an automated car heading towards an impending collision has to decide between hitting either a group of people or a single person!
As a philosophical problem, it is seemingly unanswerable, as one would get lost in a moral labyrinth the moment one starts to put conditions on who the unfortunate people/person could be. For example, the group of people could be fugitive criminals and the individual person could be a kind philanthropist.
Should you then choose to self-destruct? And what if the passengers are innocent kids?
Anyway, as a designer, I would resist indulging in philosophical puzzles and instead treat this conundrum as a ‘use case’ to think of possible ways to solve these problems. Mega issues like these which lie in the civil domain need intervention on multiple levels, including infrastructure development, city planning, policy making, civil engineering, etc. In a well-designed world, such a dilemmic situation shouldn’t arise. Perhaps in the future, all of our road infrastructure will be tiered with separate highways for different modes of transport or maybe separate concealed lanes for driverless cars.
Computational power is sufficiently developed for driverless cars to watch traffic or obstacles much further in space by using satellite imagery, and algorithmically calculate their trajectories ahead of time to avoid collision.

In the future, I wish to be in a position where I’ll get to deal with problems of such magnitude, both in terms of scale and complexity. I am fascinated by the physical scale of things for its immersive/emotive impact and a kind of surreal experience it sometimes creates. I particularly recall two new-media projects dealing with scale on a macro and micro level respectively-

Squidsoup is a digital arts group from UK, they often combine sound, space and virtual worlds to create immersive experiences. Pictured above is one of their famous pieces called submergence. It is a monumental 3D grid of LEDs which can visualize animations in 3Dimensions. Follow the link above to see it in action!


A weird yet brilliant project using a cheap EEG device and Arduino to control paramecium bacteria.
Sinister or not, is open to debate but I find it fascinating to see technology being used to manipulate our natural world with sheer will, in real time!


Having a product design background, I am also interested in using code to shape 3D form. I love the work of Zaha Hadid studio that uses generative design to conceptualize gigantic buildings which are extremely fluid and organic. Nervous System is another one of my favorite studios which combine organic generative design and digital fabrication methods.


First P5.js sketch

So with big hopes and lot of excitement I took baby steps toward mastering Javascript by making my first ever sketch using P5.js. I thoroughly enjoyed the process but was a bit annoyed with having to gauge where the shapes would lie in a coordinate system, mainly because the coordinate points were at the scale of pixels! I am too used to using Photoshop for visual design work so the lack of an intuitive interface for arranging visual elements was a bit frustrating!

Although, later I discovered a simple workaround to this issue on Carrie’s blog which is to simply draw the shapes in illustrator first to get the exact coordinates.

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